Variation in Brain Organization and Cerebellar Foliation in Chondrichthyans: Sharks and Holocephalans Academic Article uri icon


  • The widespread variation in brain size and complexity that is evident in sharks and holocephalans is related to both phylogeny and ecology. Relative brain size (expressed as encephalization quotients) and the relative development of the five major brain areas (the telencephalon, diencephalon, mesencephalon, cerebellum, and medulla) was assessed for over 40 species from 20 families that represent a range of different lifestyles and occupy a number of habitats. In addition, an index (1-5) quantifying structural complexity of the cerebellum was created based on length, number, and depth of folds. Although the variation in brain size, morphology, and complexity is due in part to phylogeny, as basal groups have smaller brains, less structural hypertrophy, and lower foliation indices, there is also substantial variation within and across clades that does not reflect phylogenetic relationships. Ecological correlations, with the relative development of different brain areas as well as the complexity of the cerebellar corpus, are supported by cluster analysis and are suggestive of a range of 'cerebrotypes'. These correlations suggest that relative brain development reflects the dimensionality of the environment and/or agile prey capture in addition to phylogeny.

publication date

  • 2007